A man accused of stealing a meerkitten from Perth Zoo says he’s “shocked by the price of meerkats”.A 22-year-old man accused of stealing a baby meerkat from Perth Zoo says he was “shocked” by the price of the animals.
The meerkitten was stolen on September 19 when it was one month old and staff were unsure whether it had been taken by a visitor or snatched by a predatory bird.
Police found the newborn two days later during a search of a home in the town of Beverley in WA’s Wheatbelt region, about 130km east of Perth.
Jesse Ray Hooker has been charged with stealing, while Aimee Cummins has been charged with receiving.
Both appeared briefly in Perth Magistrates Court on Wednesday, when the court heard the meerkitten was worth more than $21,000.
The pair were not required to plea and the matter was adjourned until next month.
Outside court, Hooker told reporters he was “shocked” to hear the price estimate, while Cummins’ lawyer said she didn’t want to comment.
The male meerkitten had just started venturing out of its nest box when it was taken and there were fears it could be rejected by its clan when reunited.
He was stressed, tired and hungry on his return to the zoo, but was accepted by the other meerkats and has since been named Salam, which means ‘safe’ in the African dialect of Kiswahili.
“This offence had flow-on effects beyond the kit’s own personal safety,” Perth Zoo executive director Wendy Attenborough said.
“The group became very unsettled with the absence.
“However, we’re very happy with the kit’s progress and with the way the whole mob is settling back into a regular routine.”
She said the meerkats remained off-display and the zoo would continue to closely monitor them when the exhibit reopens to the public.
Salama was the only survivor from a litter born in August, the first for mum Bamba, who was brought to Perth from Werribee Open Range Zoo in Victoria.
It is suspected Perth Zoo-born male Runako may have been the father.
The zoo has been reviewing security around the enclosure.